How Often Do Governors Say No? The 2009 Edition

(Editor’s Note: Each year, Peter Detwiler, the indefatigable chief consultant of the Senate Local Government Committee compiles a listing of bills signed and vetoed. This listing now stretches back to the first year of Ronald Reagan’s governship in 1967. Here are highlights of this year’s version. The complete listing is HERE.)   

            “Each bill passed by the Legislature shall be presented to the Governor.  It becomes a statute if it is signed by the Governor.  The Governor may veto it by returning it with any objections to the house of origin, which shall enter the objections in the journal and proceed to reconsider it.”

   California Constitution, Article IV, §10 (a)


  • Schwarzenegger has set a record for signing the fewest bills in a single year, approving only 632 of the measures that reached his desk in the 2009 regular session.
  • The Legislature passed just 872 bills in 2009, the fewest in more than 40 years.
  • Schwarzenegger vetoed 240 bills, 27.52 of those sent to him – a sharp drop  from last year’s record of 414 vetoes.
  • Schwarzenegger signed the lowest annual average number of bills (790 a year over six years).
  • Deukmejian vetoed the most bills (2,298 over eight years).  However, with 1,673 vetoes over his six years, Schwarzenegger is close to Deukmejian’s rate of 287 vetoes a year.
  • Deukmejian vetoed the most bills in a single year (436 in 1990).
  • Schwarzenegger has vetoed nearly twice as many bills in six years (1,673) as Reagan did in eight years (843).
  • In his five years, Davis vetoed twice as many bills (1,098) as Brown did in eight years (528).
  • In 1982, Brown vetoed just 30 bills, setting the record for the lowest number of vetoes.
  • Wilson signed the fewest bills of any recent, two-term governor (9,324 over eight years).
  • Although political conservatives, Deukmejian and Reagan signed more bills than Brown, the more activist liberal.
  • The five years with the highest number of chaptered bills were all with Republican governors (1971, 1984, 1967, 1990, 1988).

Fewest Chaptered Bills

632   2009  Schwarzenegger

729   2005  Schwarzenegger

750   2007  Schwarzenegger

763   2008  Schwarzenegger

909   2003  Davis

910   2006  Schwarzenegger

Most Chaptered Bills

1,821   1971   Reagan                                   

1,760   1984   Deukmejian

1,725   1967   Reagan                                   

1,707   1990   Deukmejian                       

1,647   1988   Deukmejian                       

1,644   1982   Brown                                   

Most Vetoes                                                 

436   1990   Deukmejian                        

414   2008   Schwarzenegger                  

372   1998   Deukmejian                       

362    2000  Davis                                   

351   1998   Wilson                                   

336    1992  Wilson                                   

Fewest Vetoes

30   1982   Brown

35   1981   Brown

49   1978   Brown

58   2003   Davis

60   1979   Brown

61   1968   Reagan

Highest Percent Vetoed                       

35.17   2008   Schwarzenegger                  

27.52   2009   Schwarzenegger                  

24.58   2004   Schwarzenegger           

24.53   1998   Wilson                                   

24.14   2005   Schwarzenegger           

Lowest Percent Vetoed

1.79   1982   Brown

2.87   1981   Brown

3.31   1978   Brown

3.97   1968   Reagan

4.40   1979   Reagan

4.43   1980   Brown

Who signed the most bills?

Reagan   12,486  1,561/year                  

Brown      10,753  1,344/year                    

Wilson       9,324   1,166/year                      

Davis         5,144   1,029/year  (Five years)       

Schwarzenegger  4,738  790/year         

Who vetoed the most bills?

Deukmejian   2,298   287/year

Wilson           1,890   236/year

Schwarzenegger   1,673   279/year

Davis             1,098   220/year (Five years)

Reagan             843   105/year

Brown               528    66/year 


Notes & Sources

This information counts only bills from regular sessions, not bills in Extraordinary Sessions.

The “Chaptered Bills” column on page 3 includes bills that a governor allowed to become law without signature.  See California Constitution, Article IV, §10 (b)(3).  For example, in 2000 Governor Davis signed 1,088 bills and allowed four measures to become law without his signature for a total of 1,092 chaptered bills.

The numbers of chaptered bills come from the bound statutes for each year, plus information from the Office of the Governor.  The numbers of vetoes come from file records kept in the Office of the Governor.  Robert Williams, Deputy Legislative Secretary in several administrations, started those files in the 1950s.  In subsequent administrations, the Governor’s legislative staff has maintained the files that Williams started.

Originally prepared December 22, 1998, by Peter Detwiler with additional research by Karen Morgan, Deputy Legislative Secretary to Governor Pete Wilson.

Revised October 11, 2000, with the assistance of Jane Leonard Brown, Committee Assistant. 

Revised December 11, 2000, to correct computational errors, with the assistance of Casey Elliott, Office of Governor Gray Davis, and Jane Leonard Brown. 

Revised October 17, 2001, with the assistance of Mike Gotch, Legislative Secretary to Governor Gray Davis, and Elvia Diaz, Committee Assistant. 

Revised October 2, 2002, with the assistance of Mike Gotch, Legislative Secretary to Governor Gray Davis. 

Revised October 14, 2003, with the assistance of Casey Elliott, Senior Legislative Assistant, Office of Governor Gray Davis. 

Revised September 30, 2004, with the assistance of Cynthia Bryant, Chief Deputy Legislative Secretary to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

Revised October 11, 2005, with the assistance of Cynthia Bryant, Chief Deputy Legislative Secretary to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

Revised October 6, 2006, with the assistance of Cynthia Bryant, Chief Deputy Legislative Secretary to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

Revised October 15, 2007, with the assistance of Mikhael Skvarla, Legislative Assistant to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

Revised  and revised again to correct data errors on October 1, 2008, with the assistance of Mikhael Skvarla, Legislative Assistant to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

Revised October 12, 2009, with the assistance of Jacque Roberts, Assistant Legislative Secretary to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.


Filed under: Governor


  1. Some of his veto’s speak volumes about how in touch his office is with not only regular citizens but also with how his departments are run. Take for an example AB 599, you have the Department of Public Health over seeing one program in California Crime Laboratories the forensic blood alcohol program. Now if you are stopped for driving under the influence of drugs DPH has no oversight, but if you drank beer then they are all over it. Most California laboratories are accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratories Directors (ASCLAD)which tests all facets of the laboratories operation at a higher standard than DPH. The Governor veto’s AB 599 which would have had DPH accept the proficiency testing used by ASCLAD and reduce the cost of DPH conducting the duplicative testing program. It would have also stopped the illegal practice conducted by DPH OF making their own samples for testing in violation of the Health and Safety code which requires these test to be obtained form and ASCLAD accredited source.
    Lets see save the state money by eliminating a worthless state program, no way! lets just cut more from the old, handicapped and schools.

    Comment by Management Slug — 10.13.2009 @ 8:36 pm

  2. I\’m with ya Slug, BTW what do think of that blowin in to a tube just to start your ride?

    Comment by John Daly — 10.14.2009 @ 6:47 am

  3. mbt safiri chill tries to let people know the right way of walking in accordance with physiology through the promotion of the ideas and concepts of MBT health shoes. Moreover, mbt chapa birch brings the benefit of physiologically correct way on foot to us with the direct and simple way.mbt tembea black improve the health has always caused a lot of people’s concern. The main effect of the shoes is to spur the body movement because its design philosophy is to encourage the use of neglected muscles.

    Comment by mbt barabara shoes — 5.26.2010 @ 6:40 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment